Former Rheinmetall Denel munition worker Jacoba Mouto puts flowers in front of their gate. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency (ANA)

Macassar residents were upset after a meeting where Rheinmetall Denel Munition officials were expected to answer questions about what had happened during a fatal explosion on Monday was cancelled at the last minute due to "fears for their safety", News24 reported.

Ward councillor Victor Isaacs told the residents on Tuesday evening the representatives had withdrawn from attending as "they say they are worried about their safety".

Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services reported that eight people had died in the explosion, but Rheinmetall Denel and the police would not confirm the number of fatalities at the National Key Point until the site inspection had been completed.

Isaacs said the employees who had been in the building at the time of the blast "couldn't have survived".

The identities of the deceased had not yet been officially confirmed, he explained, as the remains were unidentifiable.

"The heat (in that building) was over 2000°C. It's impossible that human flesh can survive it."

DNA testing was required to identify the casualties, Isaacs said, and Rheinmetall Denel had committed to employing a private company to speed up the identification process.

The building had housed a blending operation for five different propellants used in artillery charges. According to Isaacs, the explosion occurred while the workers were busy with the blending.